Sale closes on former Blue Mountain Mall

U-B FILE PHOTO: Demolition of the Blue Mountain Mall in Walla Walla halted in its tracks. The mall was later sold at auction, but problems remain.

U-B FILE PHOTO: Demolition of the Blue Mountain Mall in Walla Walla halted in its tracks. The mall was later sold at auction, but problems remain. Photo by Jeff Horner.

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WALLA WALLA — The highly anticipated sale of the former Blue Mountain Mall property closed today.

City Manager Nabiel Shawa said the commercial land that borders Rose Street, Poplar Street and Myra Road has been sold to a Los Angeles real estate firm that plans to redevelop the land as a home to regional and national retailers.

Financial terms of the sale weren’t available this afternoon. However, Shawa was clear that the ownership change is the ticket to an actual transformation at the property that’s languished in a state of demolition and a cycle of foreclosures, bankruptcy filings and hard-to-track ownership changes.

“It’s been a bit of a long haul,” Shawa said. “But, boy, it’s a great day in Walla Walla.”

Shawa said he was contacted by Alan Gottlieb, a real estate developer at Calabasas, Calif.,-based Real Estate Affiliates, who confirmed the acquisition was complete. Gottlieb was not immediately available for comment this afternoon.

Development at the property will be far from an overnight transformation, Shawa said. But for the first time since becoming city manager four years ago, Shawa said he has confidence that a happy ending is coming.

“It’s been a huge disappointment what’s gone on out there,” he said. “The illusions that were painted, the hopes that this city and the citizens had to see the construction go forward and then to watch it all fall apart. That’s behind us now.”

He said the track records of Gottlieb and L.A.-based commercial real estate development firm Zelman Development Co., along with the due diligence that’s taken place are evidence that this won’t be another false start for the property.

Shawa said he anticipates construction at the property next spring or summer. Commercial development will likely be in phases.

Despite the condition of the property with three standing anchor buildings — only one of which has an operating retailer in ShopKo — the remaining old mall demolished, and partial stone walls of what were to be new retailers constructed and abandoned, the property is nearly ideal for development, Shawa said.

Inhabited by deer and tagged with graffiti, the land is otherwise perfect for the work because it has utilities in place and is already zoned for commercial use. Even traffic effects from new retail development have already been accounted for, Shawa said.

“The condition, though it looks bad, is in pretty good shape,” he said. “It’s several steps ahead than if you were just starting with raw dirt.”

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